February 13: Dorothy Hamill Goes for the Gold


On this day in 1976, 19-year-old ice skater Dorothy Hamill captivated audiences worldwide with her masterful, gold-medal-winning performance at the 1976 Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.  Unbeknownst to her at the time, her routine would catapult her to international stardom and set her on a path to becoming one of the most beloved U.S. athletes of all time.

The soon-to-be world famous skating superstar first fell in love with the sport as a child growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut.  There, after receiving her first pair of skates at the age of eight, she first ventured out onto the ice on a frozen pond behind her grandparents’ home.  Dorothy soon asked her parents for formal skating lessons, borne out of a determination to keep up with her older sister on the ice, and within a year was entering — and winning — regional skating competitions in nearby New York City.

As a teenager, Dorothy began training more intensely, both in New York City and in Colorado Springs, and won the first of three consecutive U.S. National Championships at the age of 17.  It wasn’t until 1976, however, that Hamill’s skating career leaped into the international spotlight: That year, at the age of 19, she won the “triple crown” of ice skating, winning the U.S. National Championship, the World Championship, and on February 13, 1976, she won the Olympic gold medal for freestyle skating.  Hamill’s Olympic performance was one for the history books; she earned a nearly-perfect score in all categories and was the last Olympic skater to earn a gold medal without including a triple jump in her routine.

Dorothy Hamill featured on the February 2, 1976 issue of Time Magazine.

In addition to her international accolades, Hamill skated her way into the heart of millions who watched her Olympic performance on national television, and were both captivated by her athleticism and charmed by her humble, girl-next-door demeanor.  Hamill’s short “wedge” haircut became a nationwide fashion trend, and the young superstar, having decided to formally go professional, was soon inundated with countless endorsement and sponsorship offers.  Between her many product endorsements and a lucrative contract with the Ice Capades, Hamill became the first athlete in U.S. history to earn more than $2 million annually during the first two years of her professional career. Today, Hamill remains an active ice skater, but is better known for her philanthropic efforts, including raising awareness for breast cancer and mental illness.  A Connecticut athlete leaped into the international spotlight, on this day in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

Dorothy Hamill: U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame,” Academy of Achievement

Dorothy Hamill,” Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame